Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Christians and Global Warming

When you read several of the Adventist blogs you see a lot of posts showing concern for human induced global warming. For instance Progressive Adventism has a recent post about a coalition of Christian College students and their concern that Christians show concern about human caused climate change.

I have posted before that this is mainly a misuse of science and we are seeing more and more the science community attempting to distance themselves from the less then scientific methods and pronouncements of the human induced Global warming crowd. I advise people to take the time to watch the British documentary entitled the Great Global Warming Swindle, it is once again on the Internet and should be watched by all concerned.

Play with google player

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Good News Tour Presentations, fiction over fact

As I have been listening to the Good News Tour 2006 presentations I have noticed that their Biblical understanding is frequently questionable. Most of this is developed from their unquestioning acceptance of what they call the Great Controversy view. Which is based largely upon assumptions they draw from taking meaning away from the context given in the Bible. For example here is some material from Marco Belmont in the latest issue of the Good News Letter.

The Sin of Defining Sin
(And how it affects our youth)

Having served as a youth pastor, I’m tuned into kids, and how they reject vague, formless, and fuzzy theological answers. One of the more popular questions my youth would sometimes ask is this: "What is sin?" Is this not a question we must answer if we are to comprehend why God came down and lived in a womb for nine months, let His own created beings raise Him into adulthood and ultimately–(here’s the kicker) murder Him? …

Where did sin originate? Heaven. More specifically, in the very presence of God. I can hear one of my 16-year-olds protesting. ―Pastor Marco, I was told that sin can’t live in the presence of God. Valid question, right? What would you say to this teenager? Does it make sense to say that sin can’t live in the presence of God but it did originate there? So, whatever sin is, it obviously does something to change our perceptions about God - NOT God's perception of us. If sin can’t live in the presence of God, then how are the youth of 2007 supposed to go to God to get the solution for sin? We say, ―Go to God and in the same breath we suggest ―but don’t get too close. I recently read this statement in a popular theological periodical: ―Sin, therefore, is as much who we are as it is what we do, be-cause, in the end, we do what we do because we are what we are.

You only come up with the answer that sin originated in heaven by assuming that the verses in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are not writing about the king of Babylon and Tyre respectively but holding to the Lucifer myth that those verses are actually talking about Satan. However we know from history were the Lucifer myth came from and we know that it is not found in either the Jewish history or the New Testament period. For more information and an extensive list of quotes from modern Bible Commentaries see the article Who is Lucifer or Satan Misidentified.

If you can’t hold to the Lucifer myth then much of the presentations at the Good News 2005 will be pretty hard to take. The Bible actually never tells us about the origin of Satan, when where or how he became the adversary of God. It is extra Biblical sources and a whole lot of reading into texts that give us the theory of Satan’s fall. The book of Genesis begins with man’s fall because we are part of mankind and we are the ones in need of reconciliation to God. When we try to insert extra material into the story we merely create a fiction that we call fact. It may be that we want to know more then we do but in the end we are only left with what we are given.

Marco continues:

This seems more than a little confusing. However, I think the writer is summarizing an idea we've heard all our lives in one form or another – that as soon as we come out of our mamma’s womb, we’re already horrible sinners. We seem to be telling little Johnny that not ONLY is he born into a sinful world with sinful tendencies and disabilities (which is true), but that he is already BAD to the bone, and hopeless! We may even follow it up with ―Now Johnny, don’t even attempt to try and understand why you are a sinner and why you were just born that way, but it’s very important that you understand that God can forgive your sin if you beg Him to. But unfortunately, sin can’t live in His presence. So, well – um – well — uh… look, don't ask questions. Just get ready for church. We’re already late.

I’d like to suggest that when we tell a child that he is born a horrendous and hopeless sinner before he even gulps his first breath, we just might be instilling hopelessness. Satan used a lie at the tree with our first parents, saying that God didn’t make them good enough, and if they would just eat some yummy cantaloupes, they’d finally achieve perfection. Now, he whispers loudly to us—"You're already so MESSED up that you might as well GIVE up!" And many of us do.

Now that people have successfully created the Lucifer myth it is easy to extend the myth building farther. Through the book of Revelation we see Satan identified with the serpent of old so that is perfectly acceptable but does the story indicate that the serpent charges were addressed at saying the people weren’t good enough. No in fact the attack was upon God through the selfish desires of the people.

(Gen 3:1-5 NIV) Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman ."For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

So it was not about being good enough it was a play to pride that they wanted to be like God. Trust is the key element here, can man trust God or not. The rest of the Bible is about creating that trust. The story continues with the banishment from the Garden and then on to the first murder. It is clearly not about Satan whispering “your all messed up”. Well unless you assume that the inspiration of the Bible is from Satan, otherwise you have to admit God has pretty much identified us as messed up people. In general even the atheist would agree with the idea that people are messed up it seems to be an historical fact rather then the whispering of the deceiver.

Where does the Bible say that sin can’t live in His presence? Well that appears to be another of those insertions that people put into the Bible along with a whole host of things that they draw from metaphors like God is a consuming fire. But suffice it to say God met with the sinner Moses, talked with a whole bunch of patriarchs and prophets and came down and lived among us as Jesus Christ. God can do as He desires and people have no business foisting nonsense upon youth. Which brings me back to my problems with the numerous presentations at the Good News tour with the exception of those presentations by Alden Thompson, though I still have one more to listen to of his.

Marco concludes:

In conclusion, permit me to make one final statement. If sin is lies about the Character of God that originated in the mind of a created being in the very presence of God, then the solution to sin is the truth that dispels those lies in the minds of God’s created beings, as we behold and utilize that truth, in the very presence of God. And that, my dear global family (who I love with all my heart), is why Jesus Christ is the solution to the sin problem – because on earth, He WAS God, and now we know the truth about what God is really like and realize that Satan was a liar from the beginning. With that truth available, we can allow the healing that comes with trusting the healer. I believe this to be the concept that God has been trying to communicate to His people from the beginning: that at the Cross of Calvary, we discover we have no reason to fear a God who loves His creatures so much that He allowed them to murder Him. Marco Belmonte

Aside from his conclusion of what sin is, which is based upon some of his assumptions rather then accurate Biblical interpretations, because frankly sin is far broader then lies about the character of God, he presents a reasonable conclusion. The question is why involve all the supposition and fantasy to come to the idea of trust in God which was pretty clearly in the Adam and Eve story to begin with if it had not been reinterpreted by Marco. He could have quoted Jesus saying that Satan was a liar and murderer from the beginning, no need to plead to tradition about Lucifer, no need to pretend that sin can’t exist in the presence of God.

I am glad that this article was published because it makes it so much easier for me to say what I wanted to say about those Good News Tour presentations. They have some very good parts to their message but it is filled with so much rubbish that it becomes hard to stomach. They have restricted the gospel to and Adventist traditional view and don’t seem to realize that there is a whole world out there to be reached. Their message will not even be heard by other Christians because it is so infected with an extra-biblical view that they have named the great controversy. I remember asking them at what their definition of the Great Controversy was. Their best answer seemed to be the first three chapters of the Ellen White book Patriarchs and Prophets. Not exactly a great Biblical definition.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Bible In Our Lives..The Message That Leads To God

This weeks Sabbath School Lesson study present by Jonathan Gallagher on The Word in Our Lives was particularly good. I would recommend people taking the time to listen to it. Here are some of the quotes he uses in his notes, while the rest of the notes are not quite as good and the notes don’t really reflect what happened in the class they are a good starting point.

Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God. Johann Kepler.

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. A. W. Tozer

It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit, and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. C.S. Lewis

We are not to make the Torah into God Himself, nor the Bible into a “paper pope.” The Bible is only the result of the Word of God. We can experience the return of the Word of God in the here and now, the perpetual return of the actual, living, indisputable Word of God that makes possible the act of witnessing, but we should never think of the Bible as any sort of talisman or oracle constantly at our disposal that we need only open and read to be in relation to the Word of God and God Himself. Jacques Ellul

At some point we have to get past the “paper pope” type of thinking about the Bible and see that it is a tool to bring us to God rather then the magic answer book to life’s questions. What we should realize by now is that with all the many different Christian views out there we will not find the answers if we use the Bible as a code book. It seems the codes are all decoded based upon the many different traditions and perspectives of people. Christianity for too long has worked upon the idea that faith in our interpretations is the most important aspect of Christian faith. Our interpretations are always going to be faulty; we need to acknowledge our need to implement our God given human reason as well as being open to inspiration from God as we seek to understand our world and our God. Faith in God is different from faith in our doctrines about God.

Fundamentalist Run Amok

A sad and funny video apparently from Fred Phelps organization. Song to the tune of "We are the World" a group of fundamentalists sing the song "God Hates the World" (and all her people). Makes the average fundamentalist seem almost pleasant.

I should note this is a viral video and as such could be from other then Phelps organization. If not from his group it is a dead on parody.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Here is a report from the Adventist Review 2007 Spring Meeting concerning losses in Adventist members:
Closing the Back Door
Executive Committee members on Tuesday of the session voted to adopt an appeal from the GC Council on Evangelism and Witness to church leaders and members to curb membership loss.

Presented by GC vice presidents Lowell C. Cooper and Mark A. Finley, the Council’s two-and-a-half-page statement indicated that although more than 5 million people were baptized into the Adventist Church from 2000 to 2005, nearly 1.4 million members walked out the back door and left the church.

During the last quinquennium some divisions began a review of active membership, Cooper said, resulting in higher-than-usual membership loss ratios.

“Current indications are that annual membership losses, for reasons other than death, equal approximately 28 percent of membership accessions,” and this “is not limited to new members,” the statement read.

The document cited research suggesting social and relational factors play a much larger role in a person’s dissatisfaction with the church rather than disagreement with church doctrine.

“The reasons more frequently cited by persons who leave local church fellowship are found in the realm of relationships, the absence of a sense of belonging, and the lack of meaningful engagement in the local congregation and its mission,” it read. “Therefore, the loss of members for these reasons should be preventable.”

The statement suggests that new members will most likely remain in the church if they are able to articulate their beliefs, form friendships within the congregation, and engage in ministry—in other words, “know a sense of belonging and identity.” To accomplish this, local church boards should, among other things, review membership care strategies, study membership accession and loss patterns, repeat Bible instruction, develop friendships and small groups with new members, and encourage new members to become involved in church outreach and other activities.

Executive Committee members who spoke to this issue were unanimous in their support of the appeal; however, some questioned how greater attention for member retention can be made part of the culture at the local church level. Suggestions by some participants included establishing an accountability process for local leaders, board members aggressively focusing on designing a discipling-oriented church, and cultivating a spirit of true love and concern for others.

“We have to have in our heart a love for people,” Paulsen said. “More than anything else . . . this will help us to retain our members.”

What I find interesting is how every time the Adventist leadership discusses membership losses they are so certain to say that it is not from doctrinal differences. I still have never seen any studies that support that view though I have heard it often. Personally I don't believe it.

The issues of acceptance within the church is often very much based upon conforming to the traditional views of Adventism. A recent example can be seen in my previous article When Worlds Collide...Is It All or Nothing. For a church member to tell another (in this case maybe a visitor or new attendee) that he must believe in 6 literal days of Creation or he can't believe in Jesus is a huge example of doctrine and interpersonal relationships meeting. On SDA forums I have frequently come across people who will say of someone who has a different view then that of the Traditional Adventist that the other person is acting as an agent of Satan. Fortunately in the real brick and mortar SDA church such comments are not as likely to occur but I do think that the attitudes is commonly there. With that attitude. it is highly unlikely that good relationships will be created let alone maintained.

The Spring Meeting attendees recommended "
develop friendships and small groups with new members". They should have said with everyone rather then just new members but their assumption is that if you have been a member for a while you won't leave through the back door, a wrong assumption. The concept of small groups is actually critical to success and sorely overlooked in the Adventist church...well most Christian churches for that matter. However for small groups to ever really be successful the people involved need to be taught how to respect other views even those views which diverge from accepted Adventist norms. The corollary of that is that people need to be taught how to think critically so that they can analyze information and make informed observations about others beliefs as well as their own beliefs. And finally to be comfortable with the unknown. Because sometimes the answer we may want is not there to be found and at times we need to say we don't know and may never know in this life. This is rather hard for a church whose tradition has been that they have the truth.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Misuse of the Term Spirit of Prophecy

A recent sermon I heard reminds me that I have not posted anything on one of the distortions that seems to pervade the Seventh-day Adventist community. The sermon I heard was essentially the reading of a series of Ellen White quotations, not even a terribly well balanced series of quotations for that matter. It was a good example of the wisdom not to use her material from the pulpit.

The sermon presentation arrived at the introduction of Ellen White by means of the use of Biblical remnant references. Using classic Adventist interpretation the sermon used the formula similar to that set forth by the statement approved and voted by the General Conference session in Utrecht, the Netherlands, June 30, 1995.

In Revelation 12, John the Revelator identifies the church in the last days as the "remnant . . . which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (verse 17). We believe that in this brief prophetic picture the Revelator is describing the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which not only keeps "the commandments of God" but has "the testimony of Jesus Christ," which is "the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10).

In the life and ministry of Ellen G White (1827-1915), we see God's promise fulfilled to provide the remnant church with the "spirit of prophecy." Although Ellen G White did not claim the title "prophet," we believe she did the work of a prophet, and more..

There are a number of problems with this type of Bible interpretation. The first problem is that it misuses the term Spirit of Prophecy as if it was a prediction of Ellen White. The term, while only used once in the Bible is contextually a reference to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the source of inspiration. This is more easily seen in some of the other translations of Rev 19:10

For testimony to Jesus is the spirit that inspires prophets. (New English Bible)
This witness to Jesus inspires all prophecy (Phillips)
For the truth revealed by Jesus is the inspiration of all prophecy. (
Everyone who tells about Jesus does it by the power of the Spirit." (Contemporary English Version)
The witness Jesus gave is the same as the spirit of prophecy. (The
Jerusalem Bible)
For the truth that Jesus revealed is what inspires the prophets. (Today’s English Version)
For, the witness of Jesus, is the spirit of the prophecy. (
because the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (
Holman NT)
For the truth that Jesus revealed is what inspires the prophets. (Good News Translation)
For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus. [Or is the message confirmed by Jesus].(New Living Bible Translation)

Since the term Spirit of Prophecy is only used one time in the Bible yet it is equated to the Testimony of Jesus we can determine accurately what the testimony of Jesus or testimony of God means.

Revelation 1:2 identifies the testimony of Jesus with the Word of God. who testifies to everything he saw-- that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Rev 1:9 is similar: I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (NIV)

John gives us further understanding when he speaks of the testimony of God:
I John 5:9-12
We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (NIV)

It is by the Spirit of God that reveals to us who Jesus Christ is, as Matt 16:15-17 says:
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (NIV)

The testimony of Jesus is the witness of who Jesus is, it is the testimony of God that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God, the way the life and the truth. It is the inspiration of God that shows people the way to salvation. As the Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains:

The "testimony of Jesus" is Jesus' own testimony that he bore in his life and teaching and especially in his death. Those who hold to or proclaim this testimony are Christian prophets. Thus "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The words spoken by the Christian prophets come from the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of the risen Jesus; they are the very words of God.

This is probably not the best explanation because any Christian can have or proclaim the testimony of Jesus such as a pastor, a teacher or any believer and it does not mean they have any special prophetic office or a gift of prophecy. But it is the same source that inspires the prophet that inspires the Christian believer to follow and witness for Christ.

There is another problem with this typical Adventist use of the Spirit of prophecy and that is seen in the frequent Biblical phrases which indicate divine characteristics, some examples include:

Spirit of Truth - John 14:17
Spirit of Jesus - Acts 16:7
Spirit of Holiness - Rom. 1:4
Spirit of life - Rom. 8:2
Spirit of Christ - Rom. 8:9
Spirit of sonship - Rom. 8:15
Spirit of the Living God - 2 Cor. 3:3
Spirit of His Son - Gal. 4:6
Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation - Eph. 1:17
Spirit of Jesus Christ - Phil. 1:19
Spirit of Power, love and Self Discipline - 2 Tim. 1:7
Spirit of Grace - Heb. 10:29
Spirit of Glory - 1 Pet. 4:14

The pattern seen in these and many other examples is the “Spirit of” is used to describe characteristics or attributes of God manifested through the Spirit of God in common Christian language the Holy Spirit, the method through which the spirit of God (mind of God) communicates with the spirit of man (through the mind of man). The Spirit of Prophecy then refers to activities of the Spirit of God the Holy Spirit, whether manifested in prophets, teachers, or simply believers. It is not a reference to any particular human beings writings.

The final problem is that of making a claim that someone’s writings are the “Spirit of Prophecy”. Contextually anything that is true about God could be termed to have been inspired by God. In which case any Christian writing from the Bible to the Early Church Fathers to Martin Luther to this blog could be considered the results of the Spirit of Prophecy. It becomes egotistical to claim that one person holds that title for themselves. In actuality the claim that Ellen White’s writings are the Spirit of Prophecy is a self fulfilling prophecy that is based upon a misreading of Bible verses.

In 1916 A.T Jones wrote an article entitled THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY THE FALSE AND THE TRUE in which he points out some of the real problems that come about from the use of the term Spirit of Prophecy for Ellen White’s writings. Here are a couple of excerpts that begin in reference to a communication in an SDA magazine (Western Canadian Tidings) for families to buy “The Testimonies”:

First there is quoted Rev. 12:17 and 19:10 Then upon that, there is said the following:

We wish to emphasize the words, "and have the spirit of prophecy." Yes, they have the volumes of the spirit of prophecy in their homes for the purpose of getting the counsel into their hearts.

That word says that these people "have the spirit of prophecy" by having or because they "have the volumes of the spirit of prophecy in their homes."

And that is only plainly to say that these "volumes" are "the spirit of prophecy": and that the people and that denomination "have the spirit of prophecy" by, and only by, having "the volumes of the spirit of prophecy in their homes."

If that be so, then what of the volumes of the Bible In their homes? Are not these the spirit of prophecy too? To this question the S.D.A.'s answer "No." And they have always answered "No."

Now it is indisputable that whatever is the spirit of prophecy, is of a higher order and character than anything that is not the spirit of prophecy.

Therefore, when they say that the volumes of the Bible are not the spirit of prophecy, and that these "volumes" are the spirit of prophecy, then in that, beyond all question, they give to the volumes of "the Testimonies'' a higher order and character than they allow to the volumes of the Bible. That fact they never can escape.

They can not shift their hitherto always occupied ground, and now say that the volumes of the Bible are the spirit of prophecy; for that will be only to say that the volumes of the Bible always have been the spirit of prophecy.

And then by their own words it will be admitted that all through the ages those who had these volumes of the Bible, thereby and therein had the spirit of prophecy in their homes, for the purpose of getting its counsel into their hearts

Further: The basis of their claim that those volumes of "the Testimonies" are the spirit of prophecy, is that they were written by Mrs. E. G. White and that in these times "the spirit of prophecy was manifested through Mrs. E. G. White and through Mrs. E. G. White alone'': who was thereby "a prophetess."

But in the autumn of 1915 Mrs. E. G. White died. Then even they could not claim that the spirit of prophecy is manifested through a person who is dead.

Therefore they are now under the necessity of shifting the spirit of prophecy from that person to that person's writings: and even these writings only in a certain "set" of "volumes."

This shift then is assertive of the claim that whoever has the writings of a person who while he lived had the spirit of prophecy, after that person is dead has in his writings still the spirit of prophecy.

But that is again to say that whoever has the writings of the prophets of the Bible, has in those writings the spirit of prophecy; and that all through the ages this has been so. And this destroys the very foundation of their claim as a denomination that because of the spirit of prophecy as manifested through Mrs. E. G. White and now in these "volumes," that denomination has a specific and peculiar standing and character as the true church and people of God.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Sermon You Should Hear

I have been listening to the Good News Tour 2006 talks found on the website. I am probably a little more then half way through and will offer some analysis in the near future. For now I would like to recommend people listen to Alden Thompson's talk entitled Jesus Solves All The Problems in The Bible

The title of course is a bit facetious but it is well worth listening to as it relates quite well with the quarter's Sabbath School Lessons on the Bible. what I like about Thompson is that he does not take verses out of context the way most of the other speakers at the conference do.